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Monday, April 12, 2021

Carol Massey wakes up every Thursday and waits to hear the grocery ads read over the radio. The Gainesville resident, who is blind, depends on the program to know where she can go to save money.

She's used the Radio Reading Service, which has been provided by UF's Classic 89, since its inception in 1992.

She has relied on the service for activities such as listening to a program called "Window Shopping," which reads ads from various stores in town.

The reading service still reads the grocery ads, usually twice on Thursdays, but Massey said it really "screws up her week" if they aren't read, which happened a few weeks ago.

"This is a really valuable service for me," said Massey. "I'm blind, so I can't get in the car and go look myself."

Massey and several others said they have noticed a decline in services provided by the Radio Reading Service, which has a listening audience of 650, she said.

Listeners are sent special receivers that pick up the low-frequency signal the service is broadcast over. As part of the service, volunteers read newspapers, grocery ads, magazines and books to the listeners.

Massey said many programs, such as "Window Shopping," have been canceled. Weekend service has also been canceled.

"I would like to see more local service," Massey said. "I would like to see some of those old programs back on the air."

However, Jean DeFlumer, station manager, said "Window Shopping" and weekend service were cut because there weren't enough volunteers.

DeFlumer also said the station likes to use the Minnesota reading service when it finishes with local programming.

Massey said the service is relying too much on broadcasts from a Minnesota reading service, instead of having local programming.

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One of the most recent issues bothering listeners is the cancellation of "Focus," a local program.

"Focus" brought on health professionals, doctors, nurses and people from agencies like the Veteran's Affairs and Hospice.

The program, a live broadcast, was ended last month because the host, Jo DeNicola, didn't want to record her show a week in advance.

DeNicola said it helped people respond to problems in their lives in a positive manner. She brought in guests who helped the listeners know what was going on in their community .

DeNicola said this was the only live local programming offered to them.

She said her program was canceled because she went in to do her show one day and discovered the station had been off the air. DeNicola said she had to find an engineer to help her, and later got her show started with the engineer's help.

After DeNicola complained about the incident, DeFlumer told her she would be required to record her show a week in advance and she could only have two guests per month.

"She wanted to change the format of the entire show," DeNicola said. "I didn't want her to do that, so I quit."

DeFlumer said it is common practice for shows to be recorded a week in advance. She said it did not pull the show off the air.

"There is a certain group of people who are malcontent," DeFlumer said. "Most of our listeners are very positive except this one group of people. We expected a backlash from this show going off the air."

Joan Miles, a listener since 1993, said she has not received a schedule since DeFlumer took over in 1999.

Many long-time listeners have complained about not knowing the schedule. Both Miles and Massey said they haven't known the schedule for several years.

DeFlumer said programs are available and are sent out when they send out the receivers.

"Many people haven't gotten updated programming because they've had their receivers for years," DeFlumer explained.

Many listeners are upset about the lack of a representative voice.

When the service began, there was an advisory board of listeners, volunteers and workers who gave feedback and comments about the service, Massey said.

This board was extinguished in 2000 by Henry Pensis, station manager. He said the program didn't need a board because it had grown so much.

Many long-time volunteers quit helping at the station because they couldn't get in contact with DeFlumer, said Norman Jensen, a volunteer for five years.

Jensen said he quit because he could never get in touch with DeFlumer.

"A lot of people depend on this service," Jensen said.

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